Food is the third-largest living expense (after housing and transportation) for the average American family. That’s probably inevitable. We have to eat to live, and for a whole host of reasons, the things that we like to eat — and especially those that are both satisfying and nutritious — tend to cost a fair amount of money. You might be surprised at how much, according to the USDA’s monthly report on the cost of food at home.
We often end up paying more for food than we should, though, for reasons that are largely our own fault. We shop badly. We don’t take advantage of ways to save money. We waste food, buying things that we never end up using, that end up spoiling before they reach our tables. These are the foods with the longest shelf life.
Unlike many corners of the world, we are a nation of plenty — at least for the more fortunate among us. There are nearly 40,000 grocery stores around the country, more than 26,000 of them supermarkets stocking a full line of groceries, meat, and produce. Newcomers to America are frequently amazed by the variety and sheer abundance offered by such places.
And markets deploy numerous strategies to get all of us, longtime locals and newcomers alike, to buy more and more of the foods that fill their shelves and bins and cases — both raw materials and ready-made packaged goods or finished meals. That’s true even of the most popular grocery stores in every state.
There’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of all the great things to eat that are available to us, if we can afford them, of course, but it’s all too easy for food costs to get out of hand.
24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of things you might do — or not do — that can run up your food bill. You would likely be surprised at how much these behaviors might cost you every year. Luckily, most of them are easy to correct.